Speaker Judith Won Pat – pictured center – addresses the Guam legislature during a vote about the denial of access to higher education in Iran. The vote, which passed by a majority of 14-0, was held on 27 April 2012.
[BWNS 27 April 2012] HAGǺTÑA, Guam — The Senate of the western Pacific island territory of Guam has called upon the United States of America to keep up its pressure on Iran over human rights abuses.
A resolution was unanimously passed this morning by the island’s 15-member legislature. Fourteen senators voted in favor of the resolution, with none against. One senator was absent and did not vote.
Guam – the largest and southernmost of the Mariana Islands – is a U.S. territory with its own elected governor and legislature. The resolution, which was co-sponsored by the Senate’s speaker Judith Won Pat and two other senators, urges the U.S. Congress and President – on behalf of the people of Guam – to “continue their efforts in calling upon the Islamic Republic of Iran to ensure that the nation’s youth will not be denied access to higher education because of their faith.”
The resolution specifically cites Iran’s official government policy to “ensure that ‘progress and development’ of the Baha’is ‘are blocked’ with explicit directives that Baha’is ‘must be expelled from universities…’”
Situated in the western Pacific, Guam is the largest and southernmost of the Mariana Islands. A United States territory, it has its own elected governor and legislature.
“Although we are small on Guam and far away and removed from the situation in Iran, we want to show the world that we have compassion for the Baha’is’ suffering and persecution,” said Benjamin J.F. Cruz, vice-speaker of the Senate and a co-sponsor of the resolution.
Legislative Secretary Tina Rose Muña Barnes added, “When I put my name on the resolution to co-sponsor it, I did so with conviction because I believe that education and knowledge is a key to success. And knowing youth are being denied that opportunity I asked myself, how can I not stand up and add my voice? We should not be afraid to stand up and say, ‘I want to help.’”
The Senators’ made their remarks at a public hearing on 16 April, ahead of today’s vote.
The first recorded mention of the Baha’i Faith in Guam was 1936. Today there are some 200 Baha’is on the island. “It is our hope that this resolution will hasten the end of denial of education to the Baha’i youth of Iran and will allow them to be free to serve their country and the world,” said a spokesperson for the Guamanian Baha’i community.